Content(ish) Single

woman sitting on wall during sunset
I'm starting to realize that what I've named contentment is really something more akin to selfishness.

Allow me to set the scene: Twenty-two-year-old female, college grad, employed full time and never been kissed. According to 21st-century society, I’m either a nun, or I must look like Princess Diaries‘ Mia Thermopolis (pre-makeover). The former is not the case, and I like to think the second isn’t either.

“Contentment,” an overused and widely defined term, can be a struggle at times. I say at times because it’s easy to forget about being single when enjoying the good things in life (e.g., vacations, fellowship with friends, busy seasons at work). I say it’s easy to forget being single, but not easy being content as a single. Why? Because all those things are distractions. I’m not content in my situation at those times; I’m just not as acutely aware as other times.

The looming holiday season, as with every year, poses an increase in discontentment. Going stag to the umpteenth work and family parties, Christmas pageants and the added bonus of a wedding in January. Gotta love couples’ dances. Not to mention fielding the same questions ad nauseam from every well-meaning aunt and uncle about my perpetual singleness. And let’s not forget the 14-year-old cousin bringing his girlfriend while I’m solo for the 22nd Christmas party in a row. OK, I’m done ranting. For now.

Clearly, contentment is an issue for me. And more than likely, insecurity is as well (introspection is hard, OK?). I may be a newly realized introvert (INFJ to be exact), but I’m not a hermit. I have lots of friends in lots of different circles and meet lots of new people. So what’s wrong with me? Am I loveable? Am I only friend material?

So rather than face my demons, I throw myself into work, picking up extra shifts and staying late. Not only that, I fill my after-work life with multiple activities (read: distractions). Bible study, choir, baseball team, classical literature, demanding exercise regimes, continuing education, the local Pregnancy Center board, visiting friends and family, all with the intent of stifling the ever-louder voice telling me I’m not really fooling myself with this contentment thing. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities, but that was true of many of the attractions in Vanity Fair, too.

I’ve even swung so far at times as to almost convince myself that I don’t even want a relationship. I think of personal and career goals, traveling, self-improvement. I fiercely guard my alone time and would rather not have anyone with any claims on it. However, I actively avoid true solitude (i.e., that aforementioned Vanity Fair that is my life). I reassure myself that it’s all in the name of bettering myself, mind and body, when in reality, I’m afraid of my own thoughts. Because I’m starting to realize that what I’ve named contentment is really something more akin to selfishness. I’ve bought the lie that the world has been selling: busyness equals happiness.

I’m sure it’s quite obvious to everyone else (it always is as a third-party observer, isn’t it?) that I’ve been trying to convince myself of my own value. I have railed very hard for a very long time against the idea of a person looking for their fulfillment in another person. Marrying one’s high school sweetheart is great and all, but do you even know who you are without that person? In fighting that sentiment, I’ve swung too far the other way and have been looking for fulfillment in myself. I’ve been forgetting to preach the Gospel to myself; I’ve been forgetting Someone.

My identity is not found in my relationship status, or to broaden the scope for a moment, in my career, social standing, level of education, number of Facebook friends, or followers on Instagram (I don’t actually have Instagram, just attempting to be relevant to the [even] younger readers).  My identity is found in Christ — His death and resurrection. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis added). My beloved is mine, and I am His. I have been bought with a price and have become a new creation. First Timothy 6:6-16 has become my mantra — have a gander when you have a moment.

The point of that pseudo-rant that is this post is not to devalue ambition. But be sure to include the ambition to grow in the things of God: humility, gentleness, faithfulness, patience, true contentment, to name a few. Ephesians 3:19b says be filled with all the fullness of God.

So I am going to go for a jog, but not to suppress discontentment, but to care for the temple He has given me to use as I run the race with endurance, looking always unto Jesus.

Amber Vandermaarl is 22, Reformed, works full time as a vet tech and occasionally feels like she has something to say regarding life as a single in the 21st century.

Copyright 2014 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.


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